Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Banking and other scandals

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All of our taxi talk has been about the Parsian Bank scandal, which is confusing to me. “Explain it to me,” I ask Keivan.

“The problem isn’t your Persian,” he tells me. “It’s that no one understands what is going on.”

“Is that what Ahmadinejad was talking about the other day? What was it something like 1,750 billion in questionable loans?” Our driver asks.

“Or was it 175 billion? I don’t know. Ahmadinejad is giving the director 15 days to pay the money back, which gives him just enough time to get a visa and buy a ticket.”

This gives me an opportunity to ask about interest rates in Iran since one of my readers has asked me if I can tell him more about this.

“What’s the interest rate now?” I ask.

“17%, 18%,” the driver answers.

“Isn’t interest haram?”

“Riba is haram,” the driver answers. (“Riba” may mean interest in Arabic or it may mean usury; that’s the whole crux of the issue) “So they bullsh*tted* us and changed the name.”

[*thanks to my Iranian commentors, I understood the driver when he said: “gool mizarand”]

“Does that mean I can call wine grape juice and legally drink it?”

“That’s a good one,” Keivan says.

“It’s the Iranian way,” the driver says. “A man looks up and sees his friend climbing a tree. ‘What are you doing up in the tree?’ he asks. ‘I climbed the tree to eat some mulberries.’ ‘But that’s an elm tree,’ the man says. ‘That’s okay. The mulberries are in my pocket.’”

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